How To Actually Stick To A Diet

Focus On Consistency Not Perfection

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Yes, staying on track is crucial to your success, but its not always about perfection as much as it is about consistency. And aiming for zero mistakes, could end up hurting you more than it helps. Some studies show the amount of self-control we have is limited and exhausting it through something like strict dieting can cause us to overdo it when faced with additional challenges . In other words, you may be biologically prepped to go off the deep end if youve been cutting for a few weeks and are put in a tempting situation like happy hour or a social event with food and drinks.

Dont feel like you must go into hibernation, avoiding any temptation and unplanned cheats. Take a deep breath. It is possible to live your life and still be on a strict diet. And its alright to indulge a little, every now and then. Heck, research suggests it might even help your progress .

Tip: The best diet for you is one that you can stick to. There’s only so long you can give up all of your favorite foods and eat foods you don’t enjoy.

How To Stick To A Diet

This article was co-authored by Courtney Fose, RD, MS. Courtney Fose is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She has worked as a Dietitian since 2009, and received her MS in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Arkansas in 2016.There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 11 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 363,928 times.

Creating a diet plan is hard enough, but sticking to it is even harder. You might have been dieting for a few months, or just a few weeks, and are finding it hard to stay focused and motivated. If you really want to stick to your diet, then you have to find a way to stay on track, avoid temptation, and to make your diet plan as fun as possible. If you want to know how to stick to a diet, just follow these easy steps.

Plan To Cook Try Local Foods Or Research Restaurants In Advance

Since travel often leads to an increase in eating out, the best way to stay on track with a healthy diet is to make a plan in advance, say Registered Dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. Plan out when you will eat so you can determine where you will be eating and what foods will be available to you. This can cut down on impulsive food decisions, which can often lead to poorer choices. Having a plan for meals can also ensure you dont wait too long in between meals to eat, which can lead to excessive hunger and cravings.

If youre not sure where to eat for your diet while traveling, use apps like Yelp or HappyCow to find local restaurants and eateries. Once you land at your destination, use these smart strategies from Kerkenbush and Dr. Torchia to avoid extra calories.

  • Pass on the processed rolls and unfamiliar non-butter spreads.
  • Start with a side salad or broth-based soup.
  • Drink water with lemon or plain iced tea, instead of soda.

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Don’t Beat Yourself Up About Slipping

Give yourself permission to slip up. “If you fall off for a day, that does not mean you are doomed to be overweight,” says Ezell. “The next morning, start againit’s a new day.” And learn more about the ins-and-outs of dieting by reading the 20 Science-Backed Ways to Motivate Yourself to Lose Weight.

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Keep Filling Snacks On Hand

How can a person actually stick to a diet?

Often, its the moments when we find ourselves feeling extra hungry and tempted with a tasty treat that we forget about the healthy eating plans we had in mind for the day.

Though craving foods from time to time is completely normal, researchers have found that in moments of extreme hunger, our cravings tend to get even stronger .

Keeping nutritious and filling snacks on hand is a great way to keep cravings at bay until your next full meal.

Snacks that are high in protein and fiber can help keep you feeling full (

29 ).

Some research has even found that feeling satisfied rather than deprived while dieting is linked to a higher rate of weight loss .

Rather than completely giving up the less nutritious foods that you love, try having them only occasionally while practicing portion control.


Its true that with moderation and portion control, there is room for all foods in a healthy diet even those that might seem like they couldnt have a place.

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Dont Make Your Partner Feel Guilty For Not Wanting To Lose Weight Too

Sass explained that trying to push your partner to join you on your journey, if theyre not interested, will only create tension between you two.

“Don’t try to coerce them into changing with you if they aren’t ready,” she explained. “That will likely backfire and create friction in your relationship.” Instead, Sass said you should find ways to eat and spend time together while each meeting your own needs.

“Eat differently, but together,” she suggested. “Share some common ingredients, but personalize your portions and plate. If your partners having tacos, make yourself a taco salad without the tortillas, skip the cheese and sour cream, and load up on veggies, salsa, and avocado.”

Make Food Your Friend Not Your Enemy

Although it can seem daunting to stop dieting and aim for more middle-way eating, setting up new mindful eating habits just takes a bit of practice. Dont be hard on yourself, be patient with yourself, and start off with baby steps on a new way of eating that enables you to escape the diet trap. Going on diets can make us feel miserable and even anxious, and it can even damage our relationship with food, but by becoming a more mindful eater, adopting a more flexible mindset, giving yourself permission to eat foods you enjoy and feeling less guilty around food, you can start to feel a lot more free and relaxed around food, and start seeing food as a friend, not an enemy.

Emma suggested small adjustments to my daily habits to help me be more mindful of my eating and start to see food as a friend and not foe.

Emma has helped me so much with understanding my relationship with food.

I was eating totally the wrong things before, leaving me hungry all the time and still putting on weight. Ive now lost over a stone in 4 months. I emphasise that this is not a diet! This is about just making better decisions about food.

I now allow myself to eat those things because I no longer say I cant have that.

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Imagine Yourself In A Year And Then Look At Your Diet

Now that you know what to look out for I want you to play a mind game for a second.

Imagine yourself a year from now having not changed anything about your diet.

Logically, you know if you dont make changes to your diet today, you probably wont look or feel any different a year from now.

If your current eating habits dont line up with a fitter, healthier body this time next year, its time for a change.

Most people dont think about this stuff.

They think I know I need to eat better, but Im overwhelmed right now, so Ill figure it out eventually.

And that eventually never happens.

6 months goes by, theyre still eating the same way and havent lost a pound.

Do you envision yourself being in your best shape 12 months from now?

If so, that future self is eating differently than your current self.

Don’t Fall Victim To The ‘fast And Feast’ Cycle

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“The main stumbling block I find among those trying to lose weight is what I call the ‘fast and feast cycle,'” says Bonnie Balk, RD, Registered Dietitian and Health & Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics. “Dieters usually decide they need to shed their weight pronto, so they start by barely eating throughout the day, only to come home and devour whatever is in sight. When the surge of fatigue, dizziness, and hunger kicks in at night, they lose their self-control. Research suggests that skipping breakfast increases both waist circumference and BMI, resulting in obesity. Plus, studies of individuals with strict diet restraints show they binge eat later on. Beyond what and how much we’re eating, when we eat is a key player in losing weight.”

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Finding the motivation to stick to a diet can be difficult. But research shows that financial incentives can promote healthy behaviour and weight loss. That’s why some dieters are using sites like stickK and dietbet to create commitment contracts and create financial incentives to help them stick to their diets.

StickK was created by behavioural psychologists from Yale and works by getting members to set a goal and commitment then put some money down on it. Sticking to the commitment means you keep your money, while breaching it means you lose your money either to a friend, foe or a charity of your choice. As well as the financial incentive, such platforms help you make healthier choices with your friends and family. Dieting together can help you achieve success: research published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that people being incentivised as part of a group participants lost more weight than those using individual incentives during a 24-week period. Choosing to eat more healthily with friends and family means you’re also less likely to have to watch your partner chow down on that pizza you’ve been craving all week.

Follow A Healthy Eating Plan

A healthy eating plan should include foods you enjoy along with plenty of healthy, not-too-processed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, seafood, beans, and nuts. Thanks to their ability to satisfy, these low-calorie foods will actually help you stick to your diet. The most satisfying foods have lots of fiber and/or low-fat protein .

Ideally, you’ll slowly wean yourself off favorite foods that are heavily processed and high in fat or calories, and replace them with more nutritious options. At any time during this process, feel free to come up with a new eating plan that increases some healthful foods and decreases others. It’s best for WLC members to create a new plan at the end of the week. When you do so, the WLC electronic journal wipes your slate clean.

Don’t worry if you are a vegetarian, or have allergies or intolerances. Your personalized WLC eating plan may not include all of the recommended food groups, but it will provide adequate nutrients. We recommend that everyone take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement to fill in any nutritional gaps.

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Dieting To Control Your Eating

Many people feel that in order to control their food intake they need to put themselves on a diet. The belief is that by embarking on a diet with rules that tell them what they can and cant eat or how much theyre allowed to eat, they will be able to control their eating and lose weight in the process. The problem is that many people go on diets without really addressing their eating habits and relationship with food. Its only once youve identified and addressed any problematic eating habits that you can then find ways to eat in a more balanced way and improve your eating habits long-term. Instead of simply embarking on a diet plan, I help clients to look at the whole picture- this includes their lifestyle, eating habits, personality, self-concept, life satisfaction and their history .

Id binge eat then restrict myself and was always on a diet. I realised Id always categorised food into good or bad.

Make Whole Nutritious Foods A Major Part Of Your Diet

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This shouldnt have to be said but Ill say it.

Junk food and fast food are not acceptable in large amounts when youre trying to stick to a diet that promotes fat loss or improved health.

Should you treat yourself from time to time? Sure, but dont give into the idea that only calories matter while nutrients dont.

Whole foods can be defined as foods that are close to their natural state and having been minimally processed.

A simple way to understand what whole foods are and arent is to use a simple heuristic.

Ask yourself this one question:

If I could travel back in time with this food in hand and give it to my ancestors from the early 1900s, would they recognize it?

Chances are if they couldnt, its not considered a whole food.

For instance, take a so-called health food such as a protein bar. Its chock-full of low-quality ingredients, plus a bunch of binders and fillers.

But its created to have a high amount of protein and maybe even some fiber so its craftily marketed and sold as a health food.

Anything that is overly processed or found in a box or plastic wrap is highly suspect.

Of course, there are always exceptions, right?

You might buy meat from your butcher thats been placed in some plastic or paper wrap.

You might buy some rice thats been packed in a cardboard box or plastic.

But these foods arent highly processed like canned meat, or the microwaveable cheese and rice TV Dinner.

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Continue To Eat Your Favorite Foods

A life without cookies is a sad one indeed. “One way to still control your overall calorie intake while enjoying your favorite foods: Allow yourself one serving of a ‘special food item’ per day ,” shares Kostro Miller. “If you count calories, this may equate to 100-200 calories per day of a ‘special food item.’ If you can limit special foods even more , then go for it, but if you’re like me, I wouldn’t be happy if I couldn’t have chocolate every single day!” On that note, did somebody say popcorn?

Be Strategic When Shopping

This isnt a novel tip, but dammit if it doesnt work: Shop the perimeter of the grocery store to make dieting easier. Thats where all the fresh, unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish are, Mazur says. The center aisles are always where the processed foods lurk, he adds. For the most part, chose real food. You want 100 percent whole-grain items and 100 percent fruit juices that undergo limited processing. If you want more sugar or salt, you can always add a bit, but the key is keeping the control in your hands. Another good rule of thumb: Avoid food with more than five ingredients, if you can, Mazur says. The longer the ingredient list, the less likely a food is to be nutritious. Food companies have a lot of play and power with where they strategically place junk foods , so dont be afraid to take your time and look around so you know youre choosing the right items.

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What Should I Eat

As I mentioned at the outset, this is not a guide about what to eat. It’s a guide about why we eat the way we do and how to do something about it. That said, I’ll offer two suggestions regarding what to put on your plate.

1. Eat more greens. There isn’t a consensus on the best diet, but pretty much everyone agrees on one thing: eat more veggies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single diet that doesn’t think eating more plants is a good idea.

2. Eat a variety of foods. As we covered earlier, the brain craves novelty. While you may not be able to replicate the crunchy/creamy contrast of an Oreo, you can vary your diet enough to keep things interesting. For example, you could dip a carrot in some hummus and get a novel sensation. Similarly, finding ways to add new spices and flavors to your dishes can make eating healthy foods a more desirable experience.

Healthy eating doesnt have to be bland. Mix up your foods to get different sensations and you may find it easier than eating the same foods over and over again.

Getting And Staying Motivated

How to Stick to a Diet
  • 1Make a game plan and stick to it. You can stay motivated by setting goals and keeping them throughout the course of your diet. If your goal is just to “lose weight,” then you won’t be nearly as motivated as you would be if you had a specific goal and a plan for how you would reach it. Here’s what to do:
  • First, figure out how much weight you want to lose, and how quickly you want to lose it. Make sure to set realistic goals. You can’t lose 50 pounds in a month, but you can lose five pounds in a month if you stick to your plan. Your end-date could be a specific time like your wedding, your friend’s beach barbecue, or the start of a new school year.
  • Understand where you are now. What is your starting point? You can go visit a physical trainer for a fitness assessment or measure your waist, hips, and thighs so that you can compare your later progress to where you are now.
  • Set a game plan for each week. How much weight do you want to lose per week? Pick one day to weigh yourself each week. Don’t weigh yourself every single day or you will become obsessed with your weight.
  • Set a workout routine for each week. Though you can’t plan your workout schedule months in advance, at the beginning of every week, plug a few workout dates into your schedule.
  • You can also keep a diary that charts your dieting thoughts and analyzes what worked and what didn’t. This will help you get in touch with yourself.
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